Where to go on a camping safari

Bush camp safaris usually take advantage of the flexibility of tents to move from place to place. Some visit several parks or reserves in a single country such as Kenya, but most move between a handful of countries, traveling between Namibia and Botswana, say, or from South Africa into Zimbabwe and on to Botswana. Travel is typically by land, which keeps costs down, but can involve hours in an open sided 4WD ploughing along sandy tracks, so be ready to get dusty. Be prepared for delays at border posts, too, and if crossing the Zambezi via ferry between Botswana and Zambia.

1. Botswana

A camping safari makes exclusive Botswana more affordable, with its national parks available to wild campers. Travel by mokoro canoe to an island in the Okavango Delta to camp and take game walks. Pitch tent in Moremi and Chobe National Parks, too, where vast herds of elephants and lions prowl, and border hop into Zambia or Zimbabwe to see the Victoria Falls.

2. Kenya

Kenya is a long established safari destination with a huge mix of accommodation, including camping. There’s the chance to pitch tent in one of the many private conservancies bordering game parks such as Amboseli and the Masai Mara, where you can enjoy day, night, jeep and walking safaris, with dinners around the campfire as the sounds of the African bush echo around you.

3. Namibia

Bush camp safaris in Namibia typically take in the wildlife of Etosha National Park, plus a host of other natural wonders. Discover the red sand dunes of the Namib Desert, the salt and clay pan of Sossusvlei, the Sesriem Canyon, ancient rock art, the granite rock formations of Spitzkoppe, Cape Cross seal colony and the seaside adventure hub of Swakopmund.
South Africa

4. South Africa

Wildlife rich Kruger National Park usually features on a bush camp safari to South Africa. It’s home to some 500 bird and 150 mammal species, including the Big Five and the endangered African wild dog. Tours often drive here from Johannesburg along the Panorama Route, passing famous landmarks including God’s Window, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, the Three Rondavels (Sisters) and the Blyde River Canyon.
Victoria Falls

5. Victoria Falls

Spanning the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, the immense Victoria Falls is known as Mosi Oa Tunya locally – the smoke that thunders. You can hear it before you see it, as the Zambezi River tumbles 108m over a ravine 1.7km wide. In the wet season, the spray can rise an incredible 400m (the smoke) and a visit here involves a drenching.

6. Zimbabwe

Increasingly included in mobile bush camp safaris that take in neighbouring Botswana, South Africa and Zambia, Zimbabwe combines game viewing with fascinating culture. Matobo National Park is home to 3,500 ancient rock art sites and stony outcrops, while Zimbabwe’s largest national park, Hwange, has huge herds of elephants. You can also admire Southern Africa’s oldest stone structures at the UNESCO World Heritage city of Great Zimbabwe.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Bush camp safaris or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Bush camp safaris travel advice

The benefits
Dirk Reiche from our supplier Sunway Safaris, which specialises in bush camp safaris in Southern Africa:

The benefits of a bush camp safari

“I was a guide for 14 years on both accommodated and camping trips and on a camping safari the group dynamic is much stronger than on an accommodated tour. You are literally in each others’ faces the whole time in a confined camping area with no option to go back to your room and watch TV. So you need to be more friendly but groups do gel better I find, because you are with each other 24/7. The other main benefit is the immersion. When you’re wild camping in Botswana, for instance, there are no facilities and nobody else around – you’re in nature. Or when you camp at Spitzkoppe, in Namibia, there is a fantastic aura there, you arrive and it’s ‘wow!’.”
“In Etosha, also in Namibia, we camp inside the park whereas accommodated tours stay outside. We camp at Okaukuejo which has a floodlit waterhole and you can sit there all night if you like. I’ve seen leopard, lion, elephants and black rhino there at 3am. You see animals interacting, too – lions hunting giraffe. When we go into the desert at Sossusvlei it’s possible to get to Dune 45 and climb it for sunrise because we stay right there. Accommodated groups stay outside the area, the gates open a little bit later and it’s almost impossible to make it in time for sunrise.”
Packing tips

Packing tips

“Pack something warm for the early morning game drives in winter, and a good warm sleeping bag. Torches, particularly head torches, are a must. Use a sturdy but soft kit bag. If you’re in a group of eight or less, there won’t be a second support vehicle, just a game viewer and a trailer, so bags have to be squashed in. Shell suitcases are a nightmare to pack and the chances of getting them broken is high.”
Safety advice

Safety advice

“You’ll see termite mounds around and be reassured that that’s what your tent looks like to an animal. They don’t see you, although they may be able to smell you, and they see the tent as a solid structure. Once in Savuti, Botswana, I pitched my tent outside the camp away from the other tents because I snore, and a herd of about 20 elephants came past at night and walked around my tent.”
“Also, all of the guides leading camping safaris are bush qualified guides. During my training, right at the start, I had to walk into a pride of lions without a rifle or a vehicle – that was my training. All the guides know what to do, from banging pots and pans together to shouting and screaming to throwing sand. They are the specialists. Take your lead from them – if they’re not worried, you don’t need to be.”
Responsible travel

Responsible travel

“You’re closer to nature and we are also very careful to leave no trace when we wild camp. Guides make a real point of making sure that the fire and the toilet is totally buried, and every scrap of rubbish is taken with us so there’s no way of knowing we were there.”
what to bring and expect
Joanna Simmons, one of the Responsible Travel writing team, joined a bush camp safari in Botswana with her family and has this advice:

Tips on what to bring and expect

“When you’re traveling in an open-sided vehicle along sandy tracks you can get really dusty, so bring a bandana or buff that you can use to cover your hair or mouth. You’re in the Kalahari so conditions are sandy! Trainers can get a bit trashed by the dust, so bring boots if you have them – or at least don’t bring your best pair of trainers. ”
“Remember that when wild camping there are no facilities at all, and often several hours in the afternoon when you’re just sitting around, waiting for the next game drive. By mid August it’s hot in the afternoon and the tents become too warm to be in, so be prepared to just sit in the shade with a book – a little patience is required. Stay hydrated, bring lip balm and also hand cream – handling the tents when you pitch and break camp can be tough on your hands.”

Tips from our travelers

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do – and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful camping safari tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation – and the space inside your suitcase.
Don't be scared of the animals! Listen to the guides – they are very knowledgeable and help to bring the whole thing to life.
– Colin Pilkington
“Do it! Especially if you enjoy wild camping – not the kind with running water and generators at each site but camping in places quite remote with few amenities.” – Kelly Towle in Namibia and Botswana

“Don't be scared of the animals! Listen to the guides – they are very knowledgeable and help to bring the whole thing to life. Ask questions. Understand how it all fits together. Warm layers for the cool evenings. Take lots of memory cards for your camera. Don't forget your anti malerials. Go with the flow and enjoy Africa time. Enjoy the camping – it's the best way to be close to it all.” – Colin Pilkington

“Take a head torch – it was absolutely invaluable. And believe the brochure when it says take warm clothes: it was absolutely freezing some nights. If you can, squeeze a sleeping bag in to your luggage. I'm not sure what the freezing point of washing up liquid is, but that's how cold it was. My other tip is that if you are a keen photographer, take the best photography equipment you can afford/borrow – the photo opportunities are endless.” – Julia Ward in Namibia and Botswana
if you are a keen photographer, take the best photography equipment you can afford/borrow – the photo opportunities are endless.
– Julia Ward in Namibia and Botswana
“Take extra batteries for your camera (I learnt the hard way). Don't fret about ‘safari wear’. You don't need walking boots, trainers are fine and you just want loose comfy clothes and protection from the sun.” – Rosy Everitt in Botswana

“Do it! Be prepared to muck in with the washing up etc. Take lots of layers of clothing if going in winter – cold mornings and hot afternoons.” – John Watterson in Botswana

“Think through the group aspect of this vacation. This isn't the vacation to choose if you want private time as a couple/family. In order for the tour group to work well, everyone has to make an effort to interact enough to develop a good group dynamic. Thankfully our group worked well, everyone was considerate and we enjoyed getting to know new people. Also, this is a very 'outdoor' tour with bumpy drives, camping every night - and participating in communal chores. It wouldn't suit someone who needed to shower everyday, or who had physical health issues (such as back pain or poor mobility). Do make sure that you take something windproof to wear (and tie hair back), several of the drives are in an open sided vehicle which gets very windy (and cold).” – Caitlin Phillips in Botswana
Campfires and the stars with the noises of the African night are very special
– Pamela Young in Botswana
“I would wholeheartedly recommend the wild camping aspect of this trip as an amazing extra dimension to the experience over a lodge or fenced campsite. The tents feel robust, camp cooking was great, bush shower fun and the bush toilet comfortable and hygenic (though could be a bit scary in the dark). Campfires and the stars with the noises of the African night are very special and the company/nationalities within the group will obviously make a big impact on any individual's experience – the guides are conscious of this and facilitate group dynamics.” – Pamela Young in Botswana

“On the camping trips check the expected weather. Your are limited on what you can take so bulky warm clothes when the temperature is never going to get below 20c is a real waste of space. The camping trip is a team activity - engage with the team.” – Stephen McNally in Botswana

“Keep your packing to a minimum and separate items into bags for ease of access i.e. underwear in one bag, medicines and pills in another.” – Liz Robertson in Botswana

“Be prepared to get dirty when in the camps in the middle of nowhere. Bring a good light and plenty of battery power.” – Justin James in Botswana
Written by Joanna Simmons
Photo credits: [Page banner: William Warby] [Intro: Kurt Thomas Hunt] [Botswana: Benjamin Hollis] [Kenya: Ray in Manila] [Namibia: Sonse] [South Africa: Chris Eason] [Victoria Falls: Steve Jurvetson] [Zimbabwe: amanderson2] [The benefits of a bush camp safari 1: Maarten Elings] [The benefits of a bush camp safari 2: Michiel Van Balen] [Packing tips: ray rui] [Safety advice 1: Kathleen Steeden] [Safety advice 2: Benjamin Hollis] [Responsible travel: whatleydude] [Tips on what to bring and expect 1: David Clode] [Tips on what to bring and expect 2: whatleydude] [Traveler Reviews Intro: William Warby] [Colin Pilkington Quote: Brian Lauer] [Julia Ward Quote: Ninara] [Pamela Young Quote: Ed Ralph]